Mistakes American Companies Make
Jack Perkowski is the chairman and chief executive officer of ASIMCO Technologies, one of the most important players in China's automotive components industry. He founded the company in February 1994, after spending three years investigating opportunities in Asia and China and before others recognized the significant role that China would play in the global economy. With seventeen factories in eight provinces and fifty-two sales offices located in every corner of the country, ASIMCO Technologies is unique because it functions as a foreign-invested company built to specifically to serve the Chinese market. Under Perkowski's leadership, ASIMCO has gained a reputation for developing local management and integrating a broad-based China operation into the global economy. In 2005, ASIMCO was named one of the "Ten Best Employers in China," ranking third in a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates and 21st-Century Business Herald.
Jack’s new book Managing the Dragon: How I’m Building a Billion Dollar Business in China (Crown Business; March 18, 2008) discusses Jack’s experiences building ASIMCO from the ground up and the lessons he learned in developing the company’s local management team. The book also covers a wide range of topics such as decentralization; China’s different cost perspective and how it creates two markets for any product; intellectual property concerns; and practical advice on how to start a business in the country.
Jack Perkowski: Everybody makes the same mistakes. There’s a knack.
You got people from United States, people from China, two completely different types, different cultures, different upbringing, different income levels, different in everything. And then you try to put it together and giving to China’s, even though it’s been at this now for 30 years, that’s still a relatively short period of time, so there’s a lot of learning that’s been going on both sides.
And so, you’ve had a lot of the scrapes; intellectual property issues, somebody is setting up a competing plant; Danone, which is a big French dairy company just got into a very big scrape with their China partner had been very, very successful all these years, and all of a sudden they’re in a big legal battle in both China and the US and other parts of the world.
So those kinds of things still happen because you’re trying to mesh together two completely different cultures. And then, I don’t think there’s enough tendency to really do what I said in the beginning, which is to develop that local management teams.
See, everything changes for the better for us. When I started surrounding myself with those good New China Managers that I told you about, because then they started interpreting for me what was happening in China, and all of a sudden, it started to become a lot clearer because they knew what’s going on. So before that, I tended to have people that were non-Chinese that were, maybe, knew the language or whatever, who were supposed to be China experts. But they didn’t really understand what was going on. You really need the local Chinese to tell you what’s going on. So you need to surround yourself with people and get that kind of an input. And I think most people can kind of get to the point where they trust the local Chinese enough to do that. They always want to second guess than when I think your better instinct is to go with them.
Recorded on: September 22, 2008
Perkowski sees newcomer American companies all making the same mistakes in China.
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